We believe blockchains are a new computational platform with a breakthrough capability: trustlessness. In the ‘90s, the earliest days of the consumer internet adoption, encryption represented a significant challenge. Many things we take for granted today – like e-commerce, secure accounts, and access control – might not have been adopted if all internet communication was in plaintext.
Blockchains are at a similar crossroads. Almost all blockchains today are fully transparent. Anyone can read details of each transaction or see when any account makes a transaction. This allows anyone to verify the correctness of the blockchain, but compromises user privacy and constrains the set of possible applications developers can build.
Encryption allows DeFi applications to provide a much broader range of financial services, and unlocks new capabilities for gaming, identity, AI, and much more. New DEX designs could take advantage of encryption to alter or internalize MEV, and games could put more state on-chain while maintaining the asymmetric information required for common features like fog-of-war or hidden attributes for in-game items.
We believe encryption and privacy will be essential for blockchains to gain widespread adoption, and coordinate people, capital, and societies as the next era of the internet.
That’s why we’re investing in Aztec to build encryption on Ethereum.
We first met co-founders Zac Williamson and Joe Andrews several years ago when they were working on the initial version of Aztec, a protocol for a private token on Ethereum. Zac is one of the world’s most brilliant cryptographers, not only helping create new technology, but also translating it for broader use. Joe has created intuitive products that build bridges between the future and today. It was immediately clear they were insightful, driven, and understood what would be needed for the broader adoption of Ethereum.
Zac then helped create PLONK (explainer), along with Ariel Gabizon and Oana Ciobotaru. PLONK was a seminal paper in zero-knowledge literature, and pushed the space towards a unified trusted setup for SNARKs instead of requiring a trusted set up for each application.
Aztec then launched zk.money, a private layer-two blockchain on Ethereum for payments and token transfers. Earlier this year, they upgraded it with the launch of Aztec Connect, which allows private access to protocols on Ethereum mainnet by batching transactions with other zk.money users.
A few months ago, Aztec launched Noir, a programming language that makes it easy to build applications with zero-knowledge proofs on Ethereum. Creating and using zero-knowledge proofs has been notoriously difficult for anyone other than expert cryptographers. Aztec believes, as we do, that zero-knowledge proofs are a foundational technology for the future of technology, and should be accessible and simple to use for any developer. Noir is a big step towards fulfilling this vision.
Aztec is focused on creating the first encrypted blockchain using generally-programmable zero-knowledge proofs for Ethereum. Their incredible team is already living in the future, taking great steps forward for encryption and privacy in crypto. We’re excited to lead their Series B round and join them on that journey.
The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by a16z. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, a16z has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements; a16z has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.
This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.
Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.